I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The current 2014- 2020 LEADER programme will come to an end this year. Under the seven-year programme, €168.7 million was allocated to the local action groups, LAGs, which deliver the programme at local level, for project approvals up to 31 December 2020. As of November, 3,530 projects with a value of over €139 million have been approved for LEADER funding by the LAGs. A further 341 projects requesting over €21 million in funding are at various stages in the approval process.
Proposals for a successor LEADER programme at EU level are intrinsically linked to the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, which co-funds the LEADER programme. Proposals for the post-2020 CAP were launched in June 2018 by the European Commission. However, given the lengthy nature of discussions on the CAP and the wider EU budget at EU level, there has been a delay in adopting these proposals. This means that the next LEADER programme will not commence until January 2022 at the earliest.
The programme for Government includes a commitment to prioritise a State-led programme to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next EU programme. The objective of this commitment is to allow local-led rural development projects to be delivered under a transitional programme until the new EU programme commences.
An extra €4 million has been provided for LEADER in Budget 2021, to bring the total allocation for next year to €44 million. This allocation will be used to fund a combination of existing projects as they come to completion, for new projects to be approved under the transitional programme and to support the administration costs of the LAGs in closing out the existing programme and delivering the transitional programme.
It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multi-annual programme and that payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years, as and when they are completed. In this context, costs related to projects under the transitional programme are also likely to be met from the provision in my Department's Vote in 2022 and 2023. I hope to be in a position shortly to announce the details of the transitional programme.